THE CAMP FIRE GIRLS DO THEIR BIT
OR, OVER THE TOP WITH THE WINNEBAGOS
By HILDEGARD G. FREY
AUTHOR OF The Camp Fire Girls Series
A. L. BURT COMPANY
Publishers New York
THE CAMP FIRE GIRLS SERIES
A Series of Stories for Camp Fire Girls Endorsed by the Officials of the Camp Fire Girls Organization
By HILDEGARD G. FREY
The Camp Fire Girls in the Maine Woods or, The Winnebago's Go Camping
The Camp Fire Girls at School or, The Wohelo Weavers
The Camp Fire Girls at Onoway House or, The Magic Garden
The Camp Fire Girls Go Motoring or, Along the Road That Leads the Way
The Camp Fire Girls Larks and Pranks or, The House of the Open Door
The Camp Fire Girls on Ellen's Isle or, the Trail of the Seven Cedars
The Camp Fire Girls on the Open Road or, Glorify Work
The Camp Fire Girls Do Their Bit or, Over The Top With the Winnebago's
THE CAMP FIRE GIRLS DO THEIR BIT
A DREAM COMES TRUE
The long train, which for nearly an hour had been gliding smoothly forward with a soothing, cradling motion of its heavy trucked Pullmans, and a crooning, lullaby sound of its droning wheels, came to a jarring stop at one of the mountain stations, and Lieutenant Allison wakened with a start. The echo of the laugh that he had heard in his dream still sounded in his ears, a tantalizing, compelling note, elusive as the Pipes of Pan, luring as a will-o'-the-wisp. Above the bustle of departing and incoming passengers, the confusion of the station and the grinding of the wheels as the train started again that haunting peal of laughter still rang in his ears, still held him in its thrall, calling him back into the dream from which he had just awakened. Still heavy with sleep and also somewhat light-headed—for he had been traveling for two days and the strain was beginning to tell on him, although the doctors had at last pronounced him able to make the journey home for a month's furlough—he leaned his head against the cool green plush back-rest and stared idly through half-closed eyelids down the long vista of the Pullman aisle. Then his pulses gave a leap and the blood began to pound in his ears and he thought he was back in the base hospital again and the fever was playing tricks on him. For down in the shadowy end of the aisle there moved a figure which his sleep-heavy eyes recognized as the Maiden, the one who had flitted through his weeks of delirium, luring him, beckoning him, calling him, eluding him, vanishing from his touch with a peal of silvery laughter that echoed in his ears with a haunting sweetness long after she and the fever had fled away together in the night, not to return. And now, weeks afterward, here she stood, in the shadowy end of a Pullman aisle, watching him from afar, just as she had stood watching in those other days when he and the fever were wrestling in mortal combat.
He had known her years before he had the fever. Somewhere in his dreamy, imaginative boyhood he had read the Song of Hiawatha, and his glowing fancy had immediately fastened upon the lines which described the Indian girl, Minnehaha, Laughing Water, daughter of the old arrow-maker in the land of the Dacotahs:
"With him dwelt his dark-eyed daughter, Wayward as the Minnehaha, With her moods of shade and sunshine, Eyes that smiled and frowned alternate, Feet as rapid as the river, Tresses flowing like the water, And as musical a laughter; And he named her from the river, From the waterfall he named her, Minnehaha, Laughing Water."
The image thus conjured up remained in his mind, a tantalizing vision, until at last he found himself filled with a desire to find a maiden like the storied daughter of the ancient arrow-maker in the land of the Dacotahs, dark-eyed, slender as an arrow, sparkling like the sunlight on the water, with laughter like the music of the Falls. Sometimes he saw her in his dreams, and through the long weeks in the hospital at the aviation camp when he had the fever she was with him constantly, beckoning, calling, luring him back to life when he was about to slip over the edge into the bottomless abyss, her laughter ringing in his ears after she had vanished into the mists. Then one night she and the fever had fled hand in hand and after that he could not recall her image, though her memory still tantalized him.
Not until today, when the soothing motion of the long Pullman car and the lullaby droning of the wheels had lulled him to sleep with his elbow on the windowsill and his head resting on his thin, transparent hand, did she come back to him in a dream. In that daytime nap he had suddenly heard her laughter ring out and with flying footsteps followed the sound, hoping to come upon her at every turn, but just when he was about to overtake her the train stopped with a jerk and startled him back into consciousness, with the echo of her laughter still ringing in his ears.
And now, when his pursuit had been vain and her luring laughter had died away in his ears, she came back and stood in the shadowy end of the aisle, watching him with large, luminous eyes, just as she used to come and watch him wrestle with the fever. Breathless, he looked at her, waiting for her to vanish, but she did not. Then it came to him that he might go to her, might reach her this time before she fled. But something lay on his shoulder, something that weighed him down and kept him from moving, kept him from rising and going to her. He tried to shake it off, but it remained. He tried again, keeping his eyes on her all the time. Then the long vista of green plush seats leading to her was blotted out and he found himself gazing into a dusky countenance, while an unctuous voice murmured in his ear:
"How you feelin', Looten't? Gettin' light-headed, wasn't you? Here's the milk you ordered for two o'clock. Just drink it now, Looten't, and you'll feel all right."
Robert Allison mechanically reached out his hand for the glass of milk which the solicitous porter held out to him and dutifully drank it, while the porter hovered over him like an anxious hen, clucking out a constant stream of encouraging remarks.
The porter and the glass finally disappeared down the aisle, and Robert Allison, now wide awake and flooded with returning energy, remembered with a whimsical smile the illusion that had overtaken him at midday. He glanced boldly down the aisle to assure himself that his mind was now free from phantoms. The heavy foliage along the mountainside, through which they had been passing, and which had created a twilight atmosphere in the car, had given way to wide open fields, and the long corridor was flooded from end to end with glaring June sunlight. Robert Allison caught his breath with a start and dug his thumb-nail into the palm of his hand to make sure he was awake. For the illusion of a moment ago was not an illusion at all; she was a flesh and blood girl; she had left her shadowy foothold in the far end of the car and was coming down the aisle toward him. Spellbound, he waited as she approached, slim as a fawn, erect as an arrow, moving as lightly as the ripples that danced upon the surface of the river along whose banks they were rolling. Whether or not she was the image of the vision in his fever dream he would never be table to tell, for already the dream phantom was fading from his mind and the reality taking its place; the Laughing Water of his boyhood fancy had come to life in the person of this slim young girl who was moving down the aisle toward him.
Stupidly he had thought she was coming directly to him, and he experienced a shock of surprise when she passed him with no more than a casual glance. Even with her indifferent passing a thrill seemed to go through him; his blood began to sing in his veins, and through his mind there flashed again the lines which had stirred his boyhood fancy years ago:
"She the moonlight, starlight, firelight, She the sunshine of her people, Minnehaha, Laughing Water!"
IN THE TRAIN
Sahwah the Sunfish came tripping blithely down the Pullman aisle to rejoin the Winnebagos after a sojourn on the platform with the brakeman, whom she left exhausted with answering questions. When Sahwah traveled she traveled with all her might and there was nothing visible to the naked eye that she did not notice, inquire about, and store up for future reference. She observed down to the last nail wherein a Pullman differed from a day coach; she found out why the man ran along beside the train at the stations and hit the wheels with a hammer; why the cars had double windows; what the semaphore signals indicated; why the east-bound freight trains were so much more heavily loaded than the west-bound; she noticed that there were no large steamboats running on the Susquehanna, although it looked like a very large river; she counted the number of times they crossed the river on the run through the Alleghenies; she noticed the different varieties of trees that grew along the mountain sides; she scrutinized every passenger in the car and tried to guess who they were, what their business was and where they were going. Sahwah's mind was like a photographic plate; everything she looked at became imprinted there as upon a negative, accurate in every detail. Like the Elephant's Child, Sahwah was full of 'satiable curiosity, and her inquisitive trunk was always stretched out in a quivering search for information.
The brakeman, an amiable personage, was interested in her thirst for knowledge of railway affairs, and answered her innumerable questions in patient detail until his head began to buzz and he began to feel as though he were attached to a suction pump.
"Goodness gracious, child, what do you think I am, an encyclopedia?" he exploded at last, and sought refuge in the impenetrable regions at the forward end of the long train.
Sahwah, deprived of her source of information, turned to join her traveling companions, Gladys and Hinpoha and Migwan, up in the other end of the car. She stood for a moment at the water cooler, looking down the car at the people facing her and indulging in her favorite pastime of trying to read their faces. The car was crowded with all kinds of people, from the stately, judicial-looking man who sat in front of the Winnebagos to a negro couple on their honeymoon. There was a plentiful sprinkling of soldiers throughout the car and one or two sailors. Sahwah looked at them with eager interest and classified their different branches of service by the color of the cord on their hats. One Artillery, three Infantry, one Ambulance Corps and one Lieutenant of Aviation, she checked off, after a long and careful scrutiny of the last one, whose insignia puzzled her at first.
A porter brushed by her as she stood there with a glass of milk in his hand. Sahwah watched the progress of the milk idly, and the porter stopped beside the Lieutenant of Aviation with it. The lieutenant seemed to be asleep, for the porter had to shake him before he became aware of his existence. Just then Hinpoha caught Sahwah's eye and motioned her to come back to her seat, and Sahwah went tripping down the aisle to join her friends. She glanced casually at the young lieutenant as she passed him; he was staring fixedly at her and she dropped her eyes quickly. A little electric shock tingled through her as she met his eyes; he seemed to be about to speak to her. "Probably mistook me for someone else and thought he knew me," Sahwah thought to herself, and dismissed him from her mind.
"Where have you been all this while?" asked Hinpoha with a perspiring sigh, laboriously "knitting backward" across the length of the needle in vicious pursuit of a stitch that should have been eliminated in the process of decreasing for the heel turn.
"Pursuing knowledge," replied Sahwah merrily, settling herself in the seat beside Hinpoha, facing Migwan and Gladys.
The four girls were on their way to spend the summer vacation with their beloved Guardian, Nyoda, at her home in Oakwood, the little town in the hills of eastern Pennsylvania where she had lived since her marriage to Andrew Sheridan—"Sherry"—the summer before. Sherry was in France now with the Engineers, and Nyoda, lonesome in the huge old house to which she had fallen heir at the death of her last relative, old Uncle Jasper Carver, had invited the Winnebagos to come and spend the summer with her.
Vacation had begun inauspiciously for the Winnebagos. To their great disappointment Katherine wrote that she was not coming east after all; she was going to remain in Chicago with Miss Fairlee and help her with her settlement work there. They had rejoiced so at the first news of her coming and had so impatiently awaited the time of her arrival that the disappointment when it came was much harder to bear than if they had never looked forward to her coming. As Sahwah remarked, she had her appetite all fixed for Katherine, and nothing else would satisfy her. The news about Katherine had only been one of a series of disappointments.
Hinpoha had been called home the week before college closed officially, to attend the funeral of Dr. Hoffman, Aunt Phoebe's husband, whose strenuous work for his "boys" in the military camp during the past year had been too much for his already failing strength, and Aunt Phoebe, worn out with the strain of the last months, had announced her intention of closing the house and going to spend the summer with a girlhood friend on the Maine coast. Hinpoha had the choice of going with her or spending the summer with Aunt Grace, who had a fractured knee and was confined to an invalid's chair.
Migwan had come home from college with over-strained eyes and a weak chest and had been peremptorily forbidden to spend the vacation devouring volumes of Indian history as she had planned, and had a lost, aimless feeling in consequence.
Sahwah, thanks to the unceasing patriotic activities of Mrs. Osgood Harper during the previous winter, found herself unexpectedly in possession of a two months' vacation while her energetic employer recuperated from her season's labors in a famous sanatorium. As Sahwah had not expected a vacation and had made no plans, she found herself, as she expressed it, "all dressed up and no place to go."
For Gladys's father, head over heels in the manufacture of munitions, there would be no such glorious camping trip as there was the summer before, and Mrs. Evans refused to go away and leave him, so Gladys had the prospect of a summer in town, the first that she could recollect.
"I can't decide which I shall do," sighed Hinpoha plaintively to the other three, who had foregathered in the library of the Bradford home one afternoon at the beginning of the summer. "I know Aunt Phoebe would rather be alone with Miss Shirley, because her cottage is small, and it would be dreadfully dull for me besides; but Aunt Grace will be laid up all summer and she has a fright of a parrot that squawks from morning until night. Oh, dear, why can't things be as they were last year?"
Then had come Nyoda's letter:
Can't you take pity on me and relieve my loneliness? Here I am, in a house that would make the ordinary hotel look like a bandbox, and since Sherry has gone to France with the Engineers it's simply ghastly. For various reasons I do not wish to leave the house, but I shall surely go into a decline if I have to stay here alone. Can't you come and spend your vacations with me, as many of you as have vacations? Please come and amuse your lonesome old Guardian, whose house is bare and dark and cold.
Sahwah tumbled out of her chair with a shout that startled poor Mr. Bob from his slumbers at her feet and set him barking wildly with excitement; Migwan and Gladys fell on each other's necks in silent rapture, and Hinpoha began packing immediately. Just one week later they boarded the train and started on their journey to Oakwood.
Sahwah sat and looked at the soldiers in the car with unconcealed envy. Her ever-smouldering resentment against the fact that she was not a boy had since the war kindled into red rage at the unkindness of fate. She chafed under the restrictions with which her niche in the world hedged her in.
"I wish I were a man!" she exclaimed impatiently. "Then I could go to war and fight for my country and—and go over the top. The boys have all the glory and excitement of war and the girls have nothing but the stupid, commonplace things to do. It isn't fair!"
"But women are doing glorious things in the war," Migwan interrupted quickly. "They're going as nurses in the hospitals right at the front; they're working in the canteens and doing lots of other things right in the thick of the excitement."
"Oh, yes, women are," replied Sahwah, "but girls aren't. Long ago, in the days before the war, I used to think if there ever would be a war the Camp Fire Girls would surely do something great and glorious, but here we are, and the only thing we can do is knit, knit, knit, and fold bandages, and the babies in the kindergarten are doing that. We're too young to do anything big and splendid. We're just schoolgirls, and no one takes us seriously. We can't go as nurses without three years' training—we can't do anything. There might as well not be any war, for all I'm doing to help it. Boys seventeen years old can enlist, even sixteen-year-old ones, and go right to the front, but a girl sixteen years old isn't any better off than if she were sixteen months. I'm nearly nineteen, and I wanted to go as a stenographer, but they wouldn't consider me for a minute. Said I was too young." Sahwah threw out her hands in a tragic gesture and her brow darkened.
"It's a shame," Hinpoha agreed sympathetically. "In books young girls have no end of adventures in war time, girls no older than we; they catch spies and outwit the enemy and save their lovers' lives and carry important messages, but nothing like that will ever happen to us. All we'll ever do is just stay at home peacefully and knit."
Hinpoha gave an impatient jerk and the knitting fell into her lap with a protesting tinkle of needles, while the stitch which she was in the act of transferring slipped off and darted merrily away on an excursion up the length of the sock. Hinpoha threw up her hands in exasperation.
"That's the third time that's happened in an hour!" she exclaimed in a vexed tone. "I hope the soldiers appreciate how much trouble it is to keep their feet covered. I'd rather fight any day than knit," she finished emphatically.
"Here, let me pick up the dropped stitches for you," said Migwan soothingly, reaching over for the tangled mess of yarn. "You're getting all tired and hot," she continued, skilfully pursuing the agile and elusive dropped stitches down the grey woolen wake of the sock and bringing them triumphantly up to resume their place in the sun.
"It takes me an age to get a pair of socks done for the Red Cross," Hinpoha grumbled on, "and they're as cross as two sticks if you drop a single stitch! That woman down at headquarters made the biggest fuss about the last pair I brought in, just because I'd slipped a stitch in the wrong place—it hardly showed a bit—and because one sock was an inch longer than the other. War isn't a bit like I thought it would be," she sighed plaintively, with a vengeful poke at the knitting, which Migwan had just restored to her.
Poor romantic Hinpoha, trying to sail her ship of rosy fancies on a sea of stern reality, and finding it pretty hard sailing! Leaning back against the green plush of the train seat, which set off like an artist's background the burnished glory of her red curls, and dreaming regretfully of the vanished days when chivalry rode on fiery steeds and ladies fair led much more eventful lives than their emancipated great-granddaughters, it never occurred to her—nor to the rest of the Winnebagos either, for that matter—that romance might have become up to date along with science and the fashions, and that in these modern days of speed and efficiency High Adventure might purchase a ticket at the station window and go faring forth in a Pullman car. So Hinpoha dreamed dreams of the way she would like things to happen and built airy castles around the Winnebagos as heroines; but little did she suspect that another architect was also at work on those same castles, an architect whose lines are drawn with an indelible pencil, and whose finished work no man may reject.
Hinpoha did not resume her knitting again. She opened her hand bag and drew forth her mirror, and propping it up against her knee, proceeded to arrange the curls that had escaped from their imprisoning pins and were riding around her ears. Then she put the mirror back and drew out a bottle of hand lotion and examined the stopper. She slipped it in and out several times and then idly dropped a few violet petals from the bunch at her belt into the bottle, shaking it about to make them whirl, and then holding it still to watch them settle.
"It looks as though you were telling fortunes," remarked Sahwah, watching the petals alternately whirl and sink, "like tea leaves, you know."
Hinpoha brightened at once and animation came back into her face. Better than anything else under the sun, Hinpoha loved to tell fortunes.
"Do you want me to tell yours, Sahwah?" she asked eagerly.
Sahwah agreed amiably; she did not care two straws about fortune-telling herself, but she knew Hinpoha's hobby and willingly submitted to countless "readings" of her future, in various ways, by the ardent amateur seeress.
Hinpoha shook the bottle energetically, and then watched intently as the petals gradually ceased whirling and came to rest at the bottom of the bottle.
"There is a stranger coming into your life," she began impressively, "awfully thin, and light."
"Like the syrup we had on our pancakes in the station this morning," murmured Migwan.
Sahwah and Gladys giggled; Hinpoha frowned. "All right, if you're going to laugh at me," she began.
"Go on, we'll be good," said Migwan hastily.
"Tell us some more about the light-haired stranger. Please tell us when he is coming into her life, so we can be there to see."
"He has already come," announced Hinpoha, after thoughtfully squinting into the bottle.
"News to me," laughed Sahwah, amused at the seriousness with which Hinpoha delivered her revelations. "Oh, I know who it is," she continued, giggling. "It's the brakeman. He was a Swede, with the yellowest hair you ever saw. He was awfully skinny, too. He was very polite, and told me everything he knew, and then went away to find out some more."
Migwan and Gladys shouted; Hinpoha pouted and snatched up the bottle, shaking it with offended vigor, setting the petals whirling madly and breaking up the "cast" of Sahwah's fortune.
"There was another man, too," she announced, with a don't-you-wish-you'd-waited air, "but I won't tell you about him now. He was awfully queer, too; he was there twice, and once he was dark and once he was light!"
"How do you know it was the same one?" inquired Gladys curiously.
"Because it was," replied Hinpoha knowingly.
"Maybe he faded," suggested Sahwah, giggling again.
"No, he didn't," replied Hinpoha mysteriously, "because he was light first and dark afterward!"
Hinpoha's voice rang out like an oracle, and the judicial-looking man in the seat ahead of them turned around and surveyed the four with a smile of amusement on his face.
"That man's laughing at us," said Sahwah, feeling terribly foolish. "Quit telling fortunes, Hinpoha. It's all nonsense, anyhow."
"Maybe you think it's nonsense," returned Hinpoha in an offended tone, "but they do come true, lots of times. Do you remember, Gladys, the time I told you you were going to get a letter from a distance, and you got one from France the very next day?"
"Yes," replied Gladys, "and do you remember the time you predicted I was going to flunk math at midyears and I took the prize?"
"And do you remember the light man that came into your life, Hinpoha?" said Sahwah slily.
Hinpoha turned fiery red at this reference to Professor Knoblock and looked out of the window in confused silence. Sahwah realized that she was figure-skating on thin ice when she mentioned that subject and forebore to make any further remarks. A strained silence fell upon the four. Migwan cast about in her mind for a topic of conversation that would relieve the tension.
"Has anyone heard from Veronica lately?" she asked.
"I haven't heard from her for several months," replied Sahwah, "but I suppose she's still in New York. She must be doing great things with her music. She's given a concert already."
"It's queer about Veronica," continued Sahwah musingly. "Although she wasn't with us so much I seem to miss her more and more as time goes on. I often dream I hear her playing her violin." Sahwah's admiration for Veronica had never waned, although Veronica had never had what Sahwah described as a "real emotional case" on her.
"Veronica's an alien enemy now," said Gladys in an awed tone.
"Do you think she'll be interred?" asked Hinpoha anxiously.
Sahwah gave a little scream of laughter. "In-terned, not interred," she corrected. "I hope Veronica isn't ready to be buried yet."
"Well, interned, then," answered Hinpoha, a little piqued at Sahwah's raillery. "You don't need to call the attention of the whole car to the fact that I made a little mistake. Did you see that officer over there turn around and look when you laughed? He's looking yet, and he probably heard what you said, and is laughing at me in his mind."
Sahwah involuntarily turned around and her eyes met those of the slim, fair-haired youth in the uniform of a lieutenant of aviation, sitting several seats beyond them on the other side of the car. For some unaccountable reason she again felt suddenly shy and dropped her eyes, while a little feeling of wonder stole over her at her own embarrassment. Up until that moment, unexplained feelings had been totally unknown in Sahwah's wholesome and vigorous young life. There had been nothing bold or offensive about the stranger's glance, yet there was a certain curious intentness about it that filled Sahwah with a strange confusion, a vague stirring within her of something unfamiliar, something unknown. Outwardly there was nothing remarkable about him, nothing to distinguish him from the thousands of other lads in khaki that were to be seen everywhere one went, erect, trim, lovably conceited. Why, then, should the heart of Sahwah the Sunfish suddenly flutter at this casual meeting of the eyes with the man across the way, and why did she turn sharply around and look out of the window?
Then a curious thing happened. The sunlight, which was so bright it was making the others squint and draw the curtains, suddenly seemed to Sahwah to be darkened, while a nameless fear stole into her heart and oppressed her with a sense of lurking danger, of hovering calamity. Only for a minute it lasted, and then she was herself again and the sunshine struck into her eyes with intolerable splendor.
She shook herself slightly and turned her attention to Hinpoha, who was speaking.
"Wouldn't it be dreadful if Veronica were to be interned?" Hinpoha was saying.
"Veronica won't be interned," said Sahwah with an air of authority. "It's only the Germans who are being watched so carefully, and have to register with the police, and all that. Veronica isn't a German citizen, she's a Hungarian. She will be perfectly safe. Her uncle is an American citizen and is very patriotic; he was on the last Liberty Loan committee."
"I wonder how she feels about things?" said Gladys musingly. "Her father was in the Austrian army, you remember, and died fighting, and her mother died when their town was taken by the Russians, and Veronica just barely escaped with her own life. Their home was burned and they lost everything they had. Veronica would be very wealthy if it hadn't been for the war. It would be only natural for her to feel bitter toward the side that had brought suffering to her family."
"But that was in the early days of the war, before so many things had happened," said Sahwah, "and before Veronica had ever seen America. She's crazy about America. She certainly wouldn't feel bitter toward the Americans because the Russians burned their town and killed her father, would she?"
"Poor Veronica," said Gladys softly. "She's in a hard position and I don't envy her. I love her dearly, even if her country is our enemy."
"Shucks!" exclaimed Sahwah. "Veronica isn't to blame because her country is at war. She isn't our enemy. Anyway," she added, "I don't believe that the Hungarians are as bad as the Germans. They aren't spies like the Germans are. Why, lots of Hungarians are fighting right in our own army! Probably if Veronica's father had come to America years ago he would be doing the same thing now. Anyway, Veronica's here now, and she's glad she is here, and I don't think it's right to treat her coldly just because she's an 'alien enemy.'"
"Maybe she's still loyal to her own country, though," said Hinpoha, "and if the chance ever came to help Hungary's cause she'd feel in duty, bound to do it. She has such intense feelings about things, you know. She'd be quite willing to die for any cause she believed in."
"Shucks!" said Sahwah again. "Your romantic notions make me tired sometimes, Hinpoha. Veronica's not going to die for Hungary's cause, and she isn't likely to die for any other cause either, any more than we are."
"But we'd be willing to die for America's cause, wouldn't we?" demanded Hinpoha, with rising excitement.
"We certainly would!" replied Sahwah, with a fine flash from her brown eyes.
"Well, if we'd be perfectly willing to die for our country's cause, why wouldn't Veronica be willing to die for hers?" demanded Hinpoha triumphantly.
"What I meant mostly," said Sahwah, skillfully diverting a discussion that was becoming decidedly heated, "was that none of us are likely to get a chance to die for our country, and neither is Veronica going to get a chance to die for hers, or do anything else for it, even if she were willing to. She's just a schoolgirl like ourselves and nobody would think of asking her to do anything."
"That's the trouble," sighed Hinpoha discontentedly. "We're just girls, and the only thing we'll ever get to do is just knit, knit, knit, and there's no glory in that. That's the only 'bit' we'll ever be able to do."
The other three echoed her sigh and reflected sadly upon their circumscribed sphere, and Sahwah's dream of being another Joan of Arc flickered out into darkness. Then she brightened again as her thoughts took a new turn.
"Well, there's one thing we have to be thankful for," she said feelingly. "If we can't help to make history, we won't have to learn it, either. We're past the history part of school. But just think what the pupils will have to learn in the years to come—and the names of all those battles that are being fought every day now, and the unpronounceable names of all those cities in Europe, and all the different generals. It was hard enough to keep the Civil War generals straight, and there were only two sets of them—think of having to remember all the American and English and French and Italian and Russian ones, to say nothing of the German! Why, it will be such a chore to study history that the pupils won't have time to study anything else! People always look at little babies and say how fortunate they are; when they grow up the war will be over and everything lovely again, but I always think, 'Poor things, wait until they have to study history!' How lucky we are to be living through it instead of having to learn it out of books!"
All the while Sahwah was talking, Hinpoha had been watching with undisguised interest a man who sat in the seat directly across the aisle from them, who, with an artist's sketching pad on his knee, was drawing caricatures with a thick black pencil. Hinpoha, clever artist that she was herself, took a lively interest in anyone else who could draw, and from the glimpses she could get of the sketches being made across the aisle, she recognized the peculiar genius of the artist. She attracted the attention of the other three, and they too watched in wonder and with ever-growing interest. The artist finally looked up, saw the four eager pairs of eyes fastened on him, and nodding in a friendly way, handed his sketch-book across the aisle.
"Would you like to see them?" he asked genially, his eye lingering on Hinpoha's glory-crowned head with artistic appreciation.
He himself looked like the typical artist one sees in pictures. His hair was long and wavy and his blond beard was trimmed in Van Dyke fashion. Hinpoha nearly burst with admiration of him, and when he became aware of her existence and offered to show his sketches she was in a flutter of joy.
"Oh, may we?" she exclaimed delightedly, taking the book from his hand.
"Oh, lookee!" she squealed in rapture to the other girls. "Did you ever see anything so quaint?"
The others looked and also exclaimed in wonder and delight. There were pictures of trains running along on legs instead of wheels, of houses and barns whose windows and doors were cunningly arranged to form features, of buildings that sailed through the air with wings like birds'; of drawbridges with one end sticking up in the air while an enormously fat man sat on the other end; of ships walking along on stilts that reached clear to the bottom of the ocean!
"Oh, aren't they the most fascinating things you ever saw?" cried Sahwah, enraptured.
Utterly absorbed, she did not see the lieutenant of aviation gather up his things to leave the train at one of the way stations; was not aware that he paused on his way out and looked at her for a long, irresolute minute and then went hastily on.
The last page in the book of sketches had not been reached when the train came to a stop right out in the hills, between stations.
"What's the matter?" everybody was soon asking.
Heads were popped out of windows and there was a general rush for the platforms, as the sounds outside indicated excitement of some kind.
"Two freight trains collided on the bridge and broke it down," was the word that passed from mouth to mouth. "The train will be delayed for hours."
Dismayed at the long wait in store for them, the Winnebagos sat down in their seats again, prepared to make the best of it, when the judicial-looking gentleman who had been sitting in front of them came up and said, "Pardon me, but I couldn't help overhearing you girls talking about going to Oakwood. I am going to Oakwood myself—I live there—and I know how we can get there without waiting hours and hours for this train to go on. We are only about twenty miles from Oakwood now and right near an interurban car line. We can go in on the electric car and not lose much time. I will be glad to assist you in any way possible. My name is Wing, Mr. Ira B. Wing."
"Not Agony and Oh-Pshaw's father!" exclaimed Hinpoha. "I knew they lived in Oakwood, but——"
"The same," interrupted Mr. Wing, smiling broadly. "Are you acquainted with my girls?"
"Are we?" returned Hinpoha. "Ask them who roomed next to them this last year at Brownell! Do we know the Heavenly Twins! Isn't it perfectly wonderful that you should turn out to be their father! We were having a discussion a while ago as to whether you were a lawyer or a professor, and Sahwah—excuse me, this is Miss Brewster, Mr. Wing, another one of the Winnebagos, that the Twins don't know—yet—Sahwah insisted that you were a lawyer and I insisted you were a professor, and now Sahwah was right after all. You are a lawyer, aren't you? I believe Agony said you were."
"I am," replied Mr. Wing with a twinkle in his eye, "and I'm more than delighted to meet you. Come along, and we'll see if we can't get to Oakwood before dark."
Then the whimsical artist came up and addressed Mr. Wing. "Did I hear you say you could get to Oakwood on the electric?" he inquired. "I'm going there too. My name is Prince, Eugene Prince."
"Glad to meet you," replied Mr. Wing heartily. "Come along." He summoned the porter to carry out the various suitcases.
Before long the little party were aboard the electric car, and reached Oakwood almost as soon as they would have if the train had not been held up. The electric car went by the railway station and the Winnebagos got off, because Nyoda would be waiting for them there. Mr. Wing and the artist went on to the center of the town.
Nyoda was waiting for them on the platform, looking just as she used to, radiant, girlish, enthusiastic, bubbling over with fun. Not a shade of sadness or anxiety in her face betrayed the loneliness in her heart and her longing for the presence of the dear man she had sent forth in the cause of liberty. In respect to sorrows, Nyoda's attitude toward the world had always been, "Those which are yours are mine, but those which are mine are my own."
Encircled by four pairs of Winnebago arms and with eager questions being hurled at her from all sides, it seemed as if the old times had come again indeed.
"Sahwah! Migwan! Hinpoha! Gladys!" she exclaimed joyfully, looking at them with beaming eyes. "My own Winnebagos! But come, I'm dying to show you my new playhouse," and she led the way across the station platform to where her automobile stood waiting.
A swift spin along a quiet avenue bordered with immense old oaks that stood like rows of soldiers at attention, and up quite a steep hill, from which they could look back upon the houses and buildings clustering in the valley, which was the heart of the town, and then they drew up before a very old brick house which stood on the summit of the hill. It had green blinds and a fanlight over the front door, and a brick walk running from the front steps to the street, bordered on each side by a box hedge in a prim, Ladies' Garden effect like one sees in the illustrations of children's poems.
"Oh, Nyoda, how splendid!" cried Hinpoha, her artistic soul delighted beyond measure at the hedge and the walk and the white door with its quaint knocker.
"Wait until you see the inside," replied Nyoda, throwing open the door with the pleased air of a child exhibiting a new and cherished toy.
Cries of admiration and delight filled the air as the Winnebagos entered. The whole house was furnished just as it might have been in the old Colonial days—braided rugs on the floor, candlesticks in glass holders, slender-legged, spindle-backed chairs, quaint mahogany tables, a huge spinning wheel before the fireplace, and, wonder of wonders! between the two end windows of the stately parlor there stood a harp, the late sunshine gleaming in a soft radiance from its gilded frame and slender wires like the glory of a by-gone day. Hinpoha stood enraptured before the instrument.
"I've always been wild to learn to play on a harp," she said, drawing her fingers caressingly over the strings and awaking faint, throbbing tones, too soft to be discords, that echoed through the room like the ghost of a song played years ago, and trembled away until they seemed to mingle with the golden light that flooded the room through the west windows.
"If I had my choice of being any of the fabulous creatures in the mythology book," said Hinpoha musingly, "I think I'd choose to be a harpy."
"A what?" asked Nyoda quizzically.
"A harpy," repeated Hinpoha, touching the strings again. Then, looking up and seeing the twinkle in Nyoda's eye, she added, "Weren't the Harpies beautiful maidens that sat on the rocks and played harps and lured the sailors to destruction with their ravishing songs? Oh, I say, they were too," she finished feebly, amid a perfect shout of laughter from the girls. "Well, what were they, then? Horrible monsters? Oh, what a shame! What a misleading thing the English language is, anyway! You'd naturally expect a harpy to play on a harp. Anyway, you needn't laugh, Sahwah. I remember once you said in class that a peptonoid was a person with a lot of pep, so there!"
Sahwah joined gaily in the laugh that followed at her expense. "So I did," she admitted unblushingly, "and what's more, I only discovered day before yesterday that a trapezoid wasn't a trapeze performer!"
"Oh, Sahwah, you imp, you're making that up," said Gladys in a skeptical tone.
"Nice child," said Nyoda, patting Sahwah approvingly, trying to turn the laugh upon herself, on the principle that the hostess should always break another cut glass tumbler when the guest breaks one."
"Oh dear," said Migwan regretfully, "why did you say that about Harpies, Hinpoha, and make us laugh? I was just thinking how beautiful you looked, leaning over that harp, just like that oil painting in the gallery at home, and was getting into quite a poetical mood over it, when you had to make us laugh and spoil it all. I declare, that was too bad!"
"Serves you right for getting poetical about me," retorted Hinpoha.
"But Nyoda," said Gladys, whose eyes had been feasting on the details of the house with every increasing wonder and pleasure, "how does it come that you moved into this little town from Philadelphia, and how do you happen to be living in this wonderful old house?"
"I inherited this place a few months after I was married," replied Nyoda. "It is the old Carver House; built before the Revolution and kept in the family ever since. My mother was a Carver—that's how I happened to inherit it. She died years ago, without ever dreaming that the house would come to me, for she was not a direct heir, being only a third cousin. But the last of the direct line died out with old Uncle Jasper Carver and that left me the only living blood relation. So this beautiful house and everything in it came to me."
"Oh, Nyoda, I should think you would have died of joy!" said Hinpoha in a rapt tone. "I know people who would give their eyebrows to own so much old Colonial furniture."
"This house has seen proud days in its time," went on Nyoda. "The Carvers were staunch patriots, and many a meeting of loyal citizens was held around that table in the dining room. They say that Benjamin Franklin was once a guest here. The history of the Carver family was Uncle Jasper's pet hobby, and he has it all printed up in books which you may see in the library.
"The Carvers have always been a fighting family," she continued, with a flash of pride in her black eyes. "They fought in the Revolution, in the Civil War, and in the Spanish-American War. But now that the country is again calling men to her aid," she finished with a sigh, "there are no more Carver men to answer the call. I am the last of the Carvers, and I am only a woman."
"But you've done all that you could do," said Migwan staunchly. "You've sent your husband."
Nyoda drew herself up unconsciously as her eyes sought the picture of Sherry on the mantelpiece with the silk flag draped over it.
"Yes," she echoed softly, "the last of the Carvers has done her bit."
A dinner bell clanged through the house and Nyoda sprang up with a start. "Dinner will be ready in fifteen minutes, girls," she exclaimed. "Scurry upstairs and remove the stains of travel while I consult the cook."
"Why, Nyoda," said Sahwah in surprise, "I didn't know you had a cook. You told us coming up from the station that you did all your own work because you didn't think it was patriotic to hire servants at this time and take them away from the more essential industries!"
Nyoda looked nonplussed for a moment and then she laughed heartily. "Special occasion," she remarked ceremoniously, and disappeared with a chuckle through a door at the end of the hall.
The four girls went leisurely up the broad staircase with its white spindles and polished mahogany rail to the rooms overhead, furnished with huge curtained four-posters and fascinating chests of drawers with cut-glass knobs.
In fifteen minutes the bell sent its summons through the house again and the Winnebagos responded with alacrity. Nyoda stood in the dining-room doorway to receive them, looking rather mysterious, they thought, and Sahwah's sharp eyes counted a sixth place laid at the table. Nyoda seated them, apparently not noticing the empty place, and then tinkled the little bell that stood on the table at her place. In answer to her tinkle the pantry door opened and in came the cook carrying a tray of dishes. The Winnebagos looked up idly as she came in and the next moment the ancestral Chippendale chairs of the Carver family were shoved back unceremoniously as their occupants joined in a mad scramble to see who could reach the cook first, while Nyoda looked on and laughed gleefully.
"Veronica! Veronica Lehar!" cried the Winnebagos in wonder and ecstasy. "You here!" "How perfectly gorgeous!" "How did you happen to come?"
"By urgent invitation, sweet lambs," replied Nyoda, "just like some other people I could name. She blazed the trail for the Winnebagos by arriving yesterday."
"Oh, you naughty, bad 'Bagos," said Migwan, embracing both Veronica and Nyoda in her delight, "to frame up such a surprise for us! We standing there cool as cucumbers in the front room of the house talking for half an hour and Veronica out in the kitchen all the while, masquerading as cook!"
"You pretty nearly upset the surprise, though, Mistress Sahwah," said Nyoda, "with your suspicions in regard to my having a cook. It's next to impossible to take you in, you eagle-eyed Indian! Come, Veronica, roll down your sleeves and take your rightful place at the table. Now, girls,
"While we're here let's give a cheer And sing to Wohelo!"
And then let's dip our wheatless crusts into our meatless broth for the eternal glory and prosperity of the Winnebagos!"
Dinner over, the Winnebagos fell upon the dishes like a swarm of bees and had them cleared up and washed in a twinkling. Then they gathered in the long parlor where the harp stood, and to please them Nyoda turned off the electric lights and lit the candles in their old-fashioned holders. The little twinkling lights multiplied themselves in the mirrors until it seemed as if there were myriads of them; grotesque six-fold shadows danced on the walls as the girls moved about; the gilded harp gleamed softly in the mellow light and an atmosphere of by-gone days hovered over the room. It was an ideal moment for confidences, for heart-to-heart talks, and they spoke of many things which were sacred to one another, little intimate echoes of the days when they first learned to work and play together.
"Don't you remember, Veronica," said Migwan, "when you became a Winnebago you took the gull for your symbol, because it flew over the ocean and you wanted to follow it home?"
A memory of that day came back to the girls, of Veronica's bitter homesickness, and how desperately sorry they had been for her, and yet how helpless they had felt before her aristocratic mien. There was a great difference in her now, all the more noticeable because they had not seen her for a year. She was thinner and her eyes were larger and more pansylike than ever, but she was much more talkative and animated than she used to be. Very little of the old superior bearing remained, and the looks that she bent upon Nyoda were those of an humble and adoring slave. Proof positive of the change that had taken place in her was the prank she had played upon them that night in masquerading as the cook—she who had once refused to help prepare one of the famous suppers in the House of the Open Door, disdainfully remarking that cooking was work for servants, not for ladies.
At Migwan's remark Veronica stirred restlessly and made an emphatic gesture with her hand as she replied firmly, "That was all nonsense. I gave up the gull as a symbol long ago. It had such a screaming, ugly cry instead of a song. If I am to be one of the Song Friends I must have a song bird for a symbol. I have changed to the red winged blackbird, because that was the first American bird I learned to know by his song, outside of the robin. His voice always sounded so gay and free, singing over the open fields, that he seemed to be a symbol of the freedom and happiness which one finds in America. When he sings 'O-ka-lee! O-ka-lee! O-ka-lee!' I always think he is singing 'Liberty! Liberty! Liberty!'"
The four Winnebagos exchanged glances as Veronica uttered this sentiment, recalling their discussion of her in the train.
"Would you like to go back to Hungary?" asked Hinpoha.
Veronica shook her head vehemently. "I would not go back to my old home now if I could. I know now that I could never be happy there after having tasted the freedom of America."
"But you were not one of the oppressed poor," said Hinpoha. "You belonged to the upper class, didn't you?"
"It is true, we were not poor," answered Veronica, "we were not oppressed like the peasants. We did the oppressing ourselves, and because people in our station had done the same thing for hundreds of years we never stopped to think that it was wrong. The people in the village used to bow and scrape when they met us on the street, but how much they really cared for us I'd hate to say. It wasn't the way people greet each other in the streets here. Just imagine Sahwah, for instance, going down the street and meeting Hinpoha and having to bow humbly and wait until Hinpoha spoke to her first before she could say anything!"
The Winnebagos shrieked with laughter at the picture thus conjured up.
"Over here it seems too funny for anything," went on Veronica, "but that's the sort of thing I've been used to all my life. Now I see how ridiculous it all was and how wicked, and it seems almost like a judgment that our estate was destroyed in the very first month of the war and we had to suffer such great hardships. There was no bowing and scraping to us in that flight into the mountains, I can tell you. It was everyone for himself then, and we were all in the same boat." Veronica closed her eyes for a moment and shuddered involuntarily as the horror of that remembered flight overcame her; she threw it off with an effort and presently proceeded in an entirely composed tone. The Winnebagos, looking on with sympathetic understanding, marveled at her perfect poise and great power of self-control.
"It may seem strange to you girls," went on Veronica, "you who are so patriotic about this American land of yours, that I should talk this way about the land of my birth, and maybe you will despise me. But since I have been in America and have learned that people can live together in a much sweeter, fairer, truer way than I ever dreamed of, I could never go back to the old way. I want to become an American and never wish to leave this country. I don't want to be called a Hungarian. I want to be an American girl like the rest of you. Oh, I think you are the most wonderful girls in the world!"
She paused to squeeze Sahwah's hand, which rested on the arm of her chair.
"My uncle feels the same way about it as I do," continued Sahwah. "He became an American citizen ten years ago and is much more proud of his American citizenship than he ever was of his title."
"Did your uncle have a title?" asked Hinpoha breathlessly.
"It was a sort of courtesy title," answered Veronica, "because he was the youngest son of the baron, my grandfather, but, of course, he belonged in the family, which put him in the same class with the nobility."
"Was your grandfather a baron?" asked Hinpoha incredulously.
Veronica nodded casually and went on talking about her uncle.
"My uncle ran away at the time he became of military age rather than go into the army. All he cared for was music. Of course there was quite a stir about it and he changed his name and took his grandmother's maiden name, which was Lehar. He has now adopted that name legally in this country, and is plain 'Mr. Lehar.'"
"Then isn't your name Lehar either?" asked Hinpoha, while a rustle of surprise went through the group.
"No," replied Veronica in a perfectly matter-of-fact voice, "I simply assumed that name at his suggestion. You see, as long as I intended to be an American, I wouldn't have any further use for my title either——"
"Oh-h-h-h!" exclaimed the Winnebagos in a long breath of astonishment. "Your title! Have you got one, too?"
Veronica looked around with a little look of wonder at the sensation she had created. "I did have," she corrected gently. "I haven't it any more. I left it behind me in Hungary. I'm just plain Veronica Lehar now."
She looked into the girls' faces with a half-questioning, half-pleading expression as if fearful that this confession of her possession of a title would raise a barrier between them.
"What was your title?" asked Hinpoha, leaning forward in her chair and immensely impressed.
"My father was the Baron Szathmar-Vasarhely," replied Veronica. "I was what would be called in English Lady Veronica Szathmar-Vasarhely."
"Lady—what?" asked Hinpoha in comical bewilderment.
"Do you wonder why I changed my name when I came to America and took the simple, sensible name of Lehar? Imagine going to school here under the name of Veronica Szathmar-Vasarhely! You can just hear the teachers pronouncing it, can't you? Why, I'd never have any friends at all, because people would rather avoid me than attempt to introduce me to anybody! Besides, it's extravagant to have such a name, it takes so much ink to sign it! Lehar is ever so much more convenient. You can't tell how light and airy I feel since I threw away that long name!"
"But Veronica, why didn't you tell us before about this?" asked Hinpoha. "We never dreamed your name had ever been anything else but Lehar!"
"Because I was afraid you wouldn't take me into your group and treat me as one of yourselves," said Veronica simply. "I did so want to be an American like the rest of you. I was afraid you might object to having a title in your midst. But now you really love me and won't let it make any difference?" she pleaded wistfully.
"Of course not, you goose," said Sahwah emphatically. "We love you for yourself and it wouldn't make any difference to us if you had a title as long as a kite tail! Now do you believe it?" and she bestowed a convincing hug on Veronica that nearly took her breath away.
"But Veronica," said Nyoda, both amused and perplexed, "is it possible to throw away a title like that? If you were born Lady Veronica Szathmar-Vasarhely can you deliberately say you 'won't be it'? I thought titles either had to be kept or formally transferred to someone else. Until this is done you are still the rightful owner of the title under the law of your country and no one else can claim it."
"They can't make me go back, can they?" cried Veronica, starting up in alarm.
"Why, no," replied Nyoda reassuringly, "and I suppose if you want to give up your claim to the title nobody will stop you. I was simply amused at the way you announced that you had 'thrown away' your title and proposed to have nothing further to do with it."
"I won't go back!" declared Veronica with kindling eyes, springing to her feet and clenching her little fists. "I won't! I won't! I'm going to be an American, so there! I won't be a baroness!" Her great black eyes flashed lightnings at the girls, who looked at her in consternation. Veronica, in a passion, was something to strike awe into the breast of the beholder.
"There aren't any estates left, thank goodness!" she declared. "They were all destroyed in the shelling of the town. For all they know over there, I'm dead, too, killed along with dozens of others. How do they know that I escaped on horseback to the Carpathian Mountains and with other refugees traveled across Roumania to the Black Sea and finally found friends who sent me to my uncle in America? Nobody will ever know where all the people of our village went to. Many of them perished in the mountains, many are in other countries. How do they know but what I perished, too? How will they ever know that I am here in America when I go by the name of Lehar? Besides, who would ever take the trouble to look for me when our estates have been swept away by the Russians? I will be an American!" she finished stormily, and stood looking defiantly at the girls, her head thrown back, her breast heaving, her whole body quivering with passion.
Hinpoha broke up the tension with her usual chatter. "Tell us about some of the people you knew in Hungary, I mean important ones," she asked curiously. Her romantic imagination saw Veronica hob-nobbing with royalty and surrounded by splendors. "Did you ever see a real prince?" she asked in a hushed tone.
"Lots of times," replied Veronica in a matter-of-fact way. "I have often seen royalty riding through the streets in Budapest and Debreczin. Everybody bows while the royal carriage is passing, but I don't believe many people fall in love with princes at first sight! They're hardly ever handsome, not at all like the princes in the fairy tales. They're generally fat and stupid looking.
"I have met and talked to two princes, both occasions being when I had played at a private musicale at the home of Countess Mariska Esterhazy in Budapest, where I studied in the Conservatory."
There was a curious silence among the Winnebagos at these words, which fell so lightly, so conversationally from Veronica's lips. It suddenly seemed to them that although they had known her two years they really did not know her at all! How carelessly she spoke of playing in the home of a countess! And of meeting royalty!
"Did you really play before the king?" asked Hinpoha in an awestricken whisper.
Veronica laughed, a jolly, chummy laugh that swept away their momentary feeling of constraint and made her one of themselves again. "Gracious, no!" she replied, highly amused. "I never could play well enough for that! The Countess Mariska was quite a democratic person, and had a great many pupils from the Conservatory as her proteges. Anybody who could play at all stood a good chance of playing at one of her musicales; you didn't need to be a genius at all."
Sahwah's eyes narrowed ever so slightly. Although she could play no musical instrument herself and knew less about music than any of the others, she realized, probably better than all the rest, the quality of Veronica's performance on the violin. Sahwah had a mysterious inner perception which made her sense things without knowing why or how. So she knew, although Veronica modestly laid no claim to distinction, that she must have won fame and favor by her playing to a much greater extent than she had ever divulged.
"Tell us about the princes you met," said Hinpoha eagerly, and the Winnebagos leaned forward in an expectant circle.
Veronica's eyes danced as though at some amusing recollection.
"The first prince I ever met," she began, dropping down on the floor beside the spinning wheel in the corner and leaning her head against it, "was Prince Ferdinand of Negol, which is one of the small Eastern provinces of Hungary. He was an old man, seventy years of age, and he had both the gout and the asthma. He sat with one foot on a cushion on a footstool and when it hurt him he made the awfullest faces. Not a bit like a story book prince, Hinpoha. He was at the Countess Mariska's one afternoon when I played and when I was through he requested that I be presented to him."
"Oh-h-h-h-h!" exclaimed Hinpoha under her breath in a thrilled tone.
"The Countess presented me," went on Veronica, "and the prince conversed with me for a few minutes in a wheezy voice. He didn't say anything wonderful, just remarked that I was a good child and had played well and should make the most of my opportunities, and so on. Then his foot gave him a twinge and he made a dreadful face, and the Countess took me by the arm and marched me away."
Veronica laughed at the recollection, and the Winnebagos laughed, too, at the picture of the gouty old prince wheezing out paternal advice to the lively Veronica.
"Go on, tell us about the other one," said Hinpoha, plainly disappointed that royalty had turned out to be so ordinary.
"The other one was a German prince," said Veronica, and then laughingly added, "I don't suppose you care to hear about him?"
"Oh, come on, tell us about him," coaxed the Winnebagos.
"He was Prince Karl Augustus of Hohenburg," replied Veronica. "He was traveling in Hungary for his health, or rather, for his wife's, and he came to one of the Countess's musicales. He wasn't an ideal prince, either, although he was quite young. He was fat and red-faced and had little beady eyes that made you nervous when he looked at you. After the musicale was over Countess Mariska came to me in a great state of satisfaction and informed me that the prince had enjoyed one piece that I had played so much that he desired me to play it for his wife, who was ill in the hotel. The Countess packed me into her carriage and drove over to the hotel where the prince was staying informally, giving me minute instructions all the way over as to my conduct while there. I played for the princess, who was a thin, melancholy looking woman, and she seemed to enjoy it and thanked me quite graciously. A day or two afterward I received a package by messenger, and it was this little finger ring, a present from the prince and princess. I didn't like the prince, but the ring was very pretty and I have kept it, because the princess probably picked it out and it gave her pleasure to do so. His wife was a Hungarian."
She stretched out her hand to the Winnebagos, who crowded eagerly around to examine the small but brilliantly glowing ruby set in a dainty gold band. They had seen it hundreds of times before, but had never guessed it was the gift of a prince. Truly, Veronica was full of surprises!
"It seems to me, Veronica," said Nyoda, "that you were quite an honored little person in your country, and must have been greatly envied by your friends. How does it come that you are willing to throw away the precedence which you formerly enjoyed on account of your rank and station to become a plain citizen of another country where you have to carve out your place single handed? Don't you really ever have any regrets over it?"
Veronica shook her head resolutely. "Not at all," she replied in a firm voice. "After once living in America I could never long to go back to the old life. Since I have become a Camp Fire Girl I have learned that the true nobility is not of birth but of worth, and there should be no other in any country. I promised, you know, when I became a Fire Maker, to tend
'The fire that is called the love of man for man,'
and one cannot do that and live luxuriously on money that one has wrung from the poor instead of earning honestly. No, thank you, I would rather be a democratic American girl and call everyone friend! It's lots more fun, even than being the protege of a countess! I'd rather be a Torch Bearer than a princess!"
Veronica's eyes shone with sincerity and fervor, and the Winnebagos were tremendously impressed.
"Of course you're going to be an American," said Sahwah, drawing Veronica to her feet and encircling her with her arm, "and you're going to be just as honored and distinguished here as you were over there, because you're so wonderful that people can't help making a fuss over you. You're going to become the most wonderful violinist in the country, and people are going to go just wild over you!"
Sahwah would have poured out more brilliant prophecies, but she was cut short by the sound of a great disturbance without. There was a violent clatter on the brick walk outside, followed by a crashing thump, which was accompanied by the sound of splintering wood.
The Winnebagos started and looked at each other apprehensively. Nyoda sprang to her feet and ran for the door.
"The Kaiser is out!" she exclaimed, and seizing an umbrella from the rack in the hall, she disappeared into outer darkness.
ENTER THE KAISER
The Winnebagos streamed out after her, and in the moonlight they could see her running around the side of the house, brandishing the umbrella at a large white goat which was prancing before her on his hind legs. Sahwah picked up a good-sized stone from the driveway and rushed to Nyoda's side, ready to hurl it at the creature, under the impression that Nyoda was on the verge of being killed, but at that instant Nyoda suddenly opened the umbrella and the rampant Capricorn dropped to all fours and fled hastily in the direction of the stable.
Nyoda, flushed and laughing, returned to the girls, who were picking up the broken pieces of the white wooden trellis which had supported the rose vine over the front door. "Is there anything left?" she inquired, ruefully regarding the heap of kindling wood to which the slender laths had been reduced by the battering ram force of the Kaiser's onslaught.
"What was it?" asked Migwan, peering fearfully into the shadows behind the house. Migwan had not caught a clear glimpse of the creature and was still uncertain whether the house had been bombed or a wild elephant had broken loose.
"That," announced Nyoda in a tone both humorous and tragic, and flinging out her hands in a helpless gesture, "is Bill the Kaiser."
"What is he, a rhinocerous?" asked Migwan.
"Would that he were!" exclaimed Nyoda fervently. "A rhinocerous, a wild rhinocerous, with an ivory toothpick on his nose, would be a simple problem compared to Kaiser Bill. No, my dears, Kaiser Bill is a goat, a William goat, with the disposition of a crab, the soul of a monkey and the constitution of a battle tank. We named him Kaiser Bill for reasons too numerous to mention. His diet is varied and fearful, and his motto, like Lord Nelson's, is 'a little more grape.' He ate the whole grape vine, roots, tendrils and all, and then he ate the grape arbor for good measure. He has also consumed two hammocks, a tennis racket and the tar paper roof of the auto shed. He is fond of launching offensives, and his favorite method of warfare is a sudden attack from the rear. He is bomb proof, bullet proof and gas proof, and the only thing in the universe he is afraid of is an open umbrella. Not a few worthy members of this stately community have gained the impression that I am not quite right mentally, because I never go abroad in the street without an umbrella, never knowing at what moment that goat is going to escape from the confines of the stable yard, follow my trail, and come charging down upon me.
"One day I was sure he was out, and was walking along the street carrying my umbrella open, ready for instant emergency, when I met Mr. Carrington, the frigid rector of St. John's, the church to which all the leading families in Oakwood belong. It was a perfect day, not a cloud in the sky, nor was the sun so hot that protection from it was necessary. Mr. Carrington asked, 'Why the umbrella?' and I replied, 'Oh, I always carry that, because I'm afraid I might meet the Kaiser!' Whereupon he looked at me severely and walked off abruptly, and it didn't occur to me until later that he didn't know who the Kaiser was, and how absolutely idiotic my answer must have sounded."
"Oh, Nyoda, how screamingly funny!" cried the Winnebagos, laughing until they cried.
"But why do you keep the goat if he is such a nuisance?" asked Gladys wonderingly.
"I can't help myself," replied Nyoda with another tragic gesture. "I inherited him along with the house, and like the crown jewels, while I am to have full enjoyment of possession during lifetime, I can't dispose of him."
"How queer!" said Sahwah. "I never heard of a will like that! What a strange man your uncle must have been!"
"Oh, Uncle Jasper had nothing whatever to do with it," replied Nyoda. "He never even mentioned the Kaiser in his will."
"Then why can't you get rid of him?" asked Sahwah, mystified.
"Because it would break old Hercules' heart," answered Nyoda. "Hercules was Uncle Jasper's coachman all his life and grew old and white-haired in his service. When Uncle Jasper died he provided in his will that Hercules was to be retired on full wages and to continue living in the room over the stable that had been his home for fifty years. Hercules owned this goat, which he had brought up 'by hand,' and it was the delight of his heart. He begged me with tears in his eyes to let him keep it, so what could I do but give them both my blessing and submit meekly to the outrages of the beast? My poor rose vine!" she finished ruefully, looking at the torn twigs and branches which lay on the ground in the ruins of the trellis.
Then she suddenly threw back her head and laughed loud and long. "I was born under the sign of Capricornus, the Goat," she said, overcome with amusement. "It's sheer fatality that I should be tied up to the Kaiser. Who shall dispute the will of the gods?
"Come, Veronica, give us some music on the violin before we go to bed."
They returned to the long parlor where the mellow candle light shone softly on the harp and on an old-fashioned picture which hung above it. It was an oil painting, a portrait of a young girl in a short-waisted white satin dress, clasping in her hands a red rose. The face was small and vivacious, and the bright brown eyes seemed to look straight into the eyes of the girls as they stood before the picture.
"Who is the girl in the picture, Nyoda?" asked Sahwah, whose eyes had been drawn irresistibly to the portrait ever since she had been in the room.
"That is the portrait of Elizabeth Carver," replied Nyoda. "She was the daughter of Alexander Carver, the man who built this house. I was named after her. That harp was hers, likewise the bed in which you are going to sleep, Sahwah. She was a young girl at the time of the Revolution, and her father and both her brothers fought in the war, as well as the man she was to marry. There is a story about her in Uncle Jasper's history of the Carver family, how she saved her lover from the Indians. This valley was the scene of many skirmishes between the Colonial troops and the Indians, who had taken sides with the British. He had come to pay her a visit when his horse was shot under him by an Iroquois scout, and, stunned by the fall, he lay motionless on the ground, when a whole band of Iroquois, returning from the massacre of Wyoming, poured over the hilltop directly above them. Elizabeth took one look at the approaching Indians and then she lifted her Paul on to her own horse and galloped away to safety with the whole pack whooping at her heels. That is the tale of Elizabeth Carver, my namesake."
"Oh, Nyoda, how splendid!" cried Sahwah, with sparkling eyes. "Oh, dear, why can't things like that happen now? Life in America is so tame and uneventful, compared to what it used to be in the early days." And she fell to musing discontentedly upon the vast advantage of frontier life over her own humdrum, modern existence.
Then Veronica began to play on her violin, and Sahwah's discontented thoughts took wing, and she went floating out on a magic sea of music, and sat with closed eyes drinking in those wild, seraphic melodies that flowed from Veronica's enchanted bow until it seemed as if it could be no mere violin making that music, it was the Angel Israel, playing on his own heart strings. As Sahwah sat and listened there suddenly came over her a great feeling of sadness, and unrest, a sense of the vastness and seriousness of life, and she felt desperately unhappy. She had never felt so before. All her life she had been happy-go-lucky, and scatterbrained, and life had stretched out before her as one vast picnic, without a single solemn note in it. And now, while she listened to Veronica's playing she was suddenly plunged into the depths of world sorrow! She was so sad she didn't know what to do, tears gathered in her eyes and stole down her cheeks; she didn't know what she was sad about, but she was so sorrowful that her heart was breaking!
The sound of applause brought her to herself with a start. Veronica had stopped playing, and the girls were expressing their enraptured appreciation. Sahwah's sadness left her and she applauded wildly, then sighed regretfully when Veronica put the violin back into its case and announced it was time to go to bed.
After they had gone upstairs and were preparing to retire, Hinpoha suddenly exclaimed in a dismayed tone: "My locket! It's gone!"
"Are you sure you didn't leave it at home?" asked Nyoda.
"I know I wore it," replied Hinpoha, "I remember having it on in the train. My hair caught in it and I had to take it off to get it loose. Then I put it on again, and I never thought of it since."
"Was it the one your mother gave you, with her picture in?" asked Migwan, sympathetically.
"No," replied Hinpoha. "It was the Roman gold one Aunt Phoebe gave me for Christmas last year and I had Sahwah's picture in it, that little head she had taken when she graduated."
Search was made through all of Hinpoha's belongings, in the hope that it might have dropped into some of her numerous frills, but it could not be found.
"I suppose I lost it in the scramble when we got out of the train," Hinpoha sighed regretfully, "and that's the end of it. Oh, dear, will I ever learn not to be so careless with my things?" And thoroughly impatient with herself, Hinpoha marched off to bed.
A SURPRISE IN STORE FOR HILLSDALE
Sahwah stood in the long parlor under the portrait of Elizabeth Carver, gazing, with an expression of great respect, mingled with envy, up into the vivacious young face. The eyes in the picture gazed back just as intently at her, with a deep humorous twinkle lurking in their depths, and the red lips curving upwards at the corners in the promise of a smile seemed just about to speak. To Sahwah it did not seem to be a painting, a creation of oil on canvas, it was a real girl, Elizabeth Carver herself. She smiled back into the eyes that smiled at her, like two real girls who have just been introduced to each other and feel instinctively at the moment of introduction that they are going to like each other tremendously. Quite naturally, just as she would have done with a flesh-and-blood person, Sahwah began talking aloud.
"That was a wonderfully brave thing you did, saving your lover's life that way," she said admiringly. "I wish I had known you. I think we would have been good friends. We would have had no end of fun swimming together. Could you do Trudgeon, and Australian Crawl? Or couldn't you swim? Girls didn't swim as much in your day as they do now, I believe. It's because the side stroke wasn't invented then. But you could ride horseback. I haven't done much of that, I never had a horse, but I know I could ride if I had the chance. But I can paddle a canoe, standing on the gunwales—could you do that?"
Sahwah paused anxiously, as if half fearing the accomplished Colonial maid would also claim this, her most cherished attainment. But Elizabeth gave no sign that she could rival Sahwah's prowess with the canoe, and Sahwah, made affable by the knowledge of her own powers, went on graciously, "You could play on the harp, though, and of course I can't," She laid her hand on the gilt frame of the harp that stood at her side, and looked at its wires and pedals respectfully. She did not venture to play upon it, as Hinpoha had done, somehow she didn't quite dare, with Elizabeth there looking on.
"You must have looked beautiful playing on it," resumed Sahwah in soft, musing tones. "No wonder the man named Paul fell in love with you. And to think you saved his life! I wish I could save a man's life. Oh, wouldn't I have had the adventures, though, if I had lived in your time!" Sahwah had unconsciously clasped her hands, and stood looking up at Elizabeth with a world of envy and longing in her eyes.
Voices in the room behind her brought her back to the present. She turned, and there was Hinpoha with two strange girls.
"Oh, Sahwah, are you alone?" said Hinpoha in surprise. "I thought some of the rest were in here with you, I was sure I heard talking here when I came in. I want you to meet Agony and Oh-Pshaw, whose father you have already met. You remember my writing to you about the Heavenly Twins, the Wings, the famous Flying Column of the class? I was just on my way to hunt them up this morning when I met them on the street. They were just on their way to hunt us up. Girls, this is our Sahwah, once named Sarah Ann Brewster, but now only Sahwah the Sunfish."
Sahwah came forward, radiating smiles, to meet the twins about whom she had heard so much, and grasped their hands with delighted cordiality.
"Agony and Oh-Pshaw!" she exclaimed. "What delicious names!"
"Oh, we have baptismal names among our goods and chattels, too," said the twin whom Sahwah held by the right hand. "They are very good names, too, in their way, even Alta and Agnes, but you're not to use them under any circumstances. You're to call us Agony and Oh-Pshaw the same as everybody does."
Sahwah started at the deep, rich tones of Agony's voice. People invariably did when they heard it for the first time. It rolled and reverberated like the lowest tones of a cathedral organ. Although low-pitched and well-modulated, it had a peculiar penetrating quality, which made it carry for a surprisingly long distance.
Gladys and Migwan, upstairs putting their room to rights, heard it and came rushing down into the parlor to fling themselves upon the Twins with loud cries of joy.
"Agony! It's been years since I've seen you!"
"Gladys! I simply can't get used to going to bed without shouting good-night through the transom to you!"
"Hinpoha, my angel of light, come to my arms once more! Come sit on my knee and tell me all your adventures since you went home from college!"
Just then Nyoda came into the room and raptures were interrupted by new introductions.
"Twins!" said Nyoda delightedly. "And just alike, too! How am I going to tell you apart?"
"Easy," said Agony brightly. "Oh-Pshaw's nose is a shade more classic than mine, while I have a more angelic expression."
"Thank you for calling those little points to my attention," said Nyoda. "Now that you mention it I see the difference clearly. I shall never mistake one of you for the other."
Nyoda's clear-seeing eye had already noted a dozen points of difference in the two girls. Both had very black hair and very blue eyes and very red lips; both had deep, vibrant voices. But Agony was more vivid than Oh-Pshaw in every way. Her hair was more brilliantly black; her eyes more sparklingly blue; her lips more glowingly carmine. The greatest point of difference was their voices. Oh-Pshaw spoke in deep, musical chest tones, but in Agony's there was an added quality of resonance, a timbre unlike anything she had ever heard before. Nyoda had heard a great many kinds of voices in her years in the classroom.
Also her eye detected other, subtler, differences. In Agony she read a nature impulsive, enthusiastic, brilliant, confident, fascinating; also hot-headed, strong-willed and impatient of restraint. In Oh-Pshaw she saw a less all-conquering, a more plodding nature, slower to comprehend, less ardent and with less power to influence. But if the eyes were not so sparkling they were more thoughtful, and if the red lips were set in a less bewitchingly mischievous curve there was something about their lines that told more of patience and perseverance. All this Nyoda, who was an expert judge of character, read in the faces of the two girls as she watched them with interested and friendly scrutiny.
Veronica came in and Hinpoha immediately jumped up and drew her forward with an air of great ceremony. "Girls," she said impressively, "meet Lady Veronica Szathmar—er—Lehar. She's a real baroness," she added.
Agony and Oh-Pshaw looked first at each other in astonishment, and then with eager interest at the slim, dark-eyed girl before them.
Veronica laughed and came forward simply, cordially acknowledging the introduction. Then she turned to Hinpoha. "I thought you understood my name was just Veronica Lehar," she said reproachfully.
"Of course," murmured Hinpoha, her mind on the tremendous impression her casual mention of the sonorous title had apparently made on the Twins. Then she launched into a full account of Veronica's history for their benefit.
"You are a Hungarian, are you?" Agony asked Veronica, and Nyoda noticed that she drew back and her tone had become somewhat frigid. Quickly, she flung herself into the breach, and sending Veronica out to tell Hercules that Kaiser Bill was in the geranium bed, she graphically described Veronica's passionate outbreak of a few nights before and told of her intense desire to be an American. The coldness died from Agony's expressive face as she listened and when Veronica returned she treated her with sincere cordiality. Nyoda, however, still felt disturbed about Veronica. With the intense feeling of patriotism that people naturally had they would be quite likely to look askance at Veronica when they heard that she belonged to a baronial family of Hungary and her father had been a Captain in an Austrian regiment.
"Veronica," she said seriously, "I don't know whether it's a wise thing for you to tell people about yourself with such perfect frankness. It's all right with us here, of course, because we understand your feelings, but you know at such a time as this there are always people who are on the lookout for sensations, and if it were generally known that you were a Hungarian girl with a title some people might misunderstand, and it might make you unhappy. I would avoid the subject of nationality as much as possible, and not speak so freely about your father's having been in the Austrian army."
Thus did Nyoda endeavor to shield Veronica from further coldness and looks of suspicion such as she had seen displayed by Agony directly she heard that Veronica was an alien enemy.
"I suppose it would be better not to tell people about it," agreed Veronica. "No one knows that my real name isn't Lehar, outside of my uncle's family, and you," said Veronica lightly. "I've never told anyone else about it."
"We haven't told anyone but Agony and Oh-Pshaw," said the Winnebagos, and promised to keep the secret inviolate.
"May I ask you also to say nothing about it?" Nyoda asked the Twins.
"Certainly we'll keep it to ourselves," replied Agony readily. "I think it's perfectly epic to have such a secret. We wouldn't divulge it for worlds, would we, Oh-Pshaw?"
Agony chatted on gaily, entertainingly, flitting from subject to subject, and the rest listened from sheer pleasure of hearing her rich voice.
"I'm so glad you Winnebagos have come to town," she exclaimed jubilantly, bestowing a hug on Sahwah, who stood beside her, "you've saved our lives!"
"How so?" asked Sahwah curiously.
"With your help we can do it," continued Agony.
"Do what?" asked Sahwah.
"Beat Hillsdale," replied Agony. "Hillsdale is the next largest town to Oakwood in the county and they're trying their best to outdo us in every way. They've done it, too, in most respects. Their prep school has beaten our academy both in football and basketball for the last five years; their city baseball team beat ours every time they played; they got ahead of us in the number of men who enlisted in the army, and they outdid us in the Liberty Loan. There's nothing but rivalry all through everything. Oakwood is just wild to get ahead of Hillsdale in something. Now there's going to be a great exhibition military drill for girls held in Philadelphia the last week in August and each county is to send its prize drill company. So far Hillsdale is the only town in our county who has a company of girls drilling, and they're cocksure of getting to Philadelphia to enter the big contest. Oakwood girls haven't got the courage to get up a company. They say they'll only be beaten out by Hillsdale anyway, so what's the use? But now that you're here it'll be different. With you to start a company and carry it along we'll beat Hillsdale and her old Girl Scouts to a frazzle, I know we can. I'm so tired of hearing those Hillsdale Girl Scouts raved about. Everybody thinks they're perfectly wonderful and their own personal opinion is that there never was anything created quite as marvelous as they. Just wait until we beat them out in the drill contest! You'll get up a company of the girls here, won't you?" she pleaded eagerly. "I can get somebody to drill us if you do."
"We will!" answered the Winnebagos enthusiastically, their sporting blood immediately aroused. When did the Winnebagos ever let a challenge of their supremacy go unanswered?
"Oh, goody!" cried Agony. "I knew you'd do it! Oh, poor Hillsdale! Poor, poor Hillsdale!" Agony, jubilant, waved her parasol around her head wildly. "Come to dinner Friday night," she said, "and we'll work out the details. That is the last night father is to be home. There's another guest coming, an artist who has just come to town. Father met him on the train and is quite taken with him. What do you think of my father?" she wound up.
"He's very grand looking, but jolly, too," said Sahwah.
"Lots of people are afraid of father," Agony chatted on. "He's Assistant District Attorney in Philadelphia, you know. He is always gentle with us, but he can be very stern with people when he wants to. They say that prisoners always quail before him in the court room and that witnesses dread to be cross-examined by him. He has a way of piercing people through with his eyes that makes them lose their nerve and they always confess. He's been merciless in his prosecution of slackers and draft evaders and has made himself quite famous. There was an article about him in one of the Sunday papers recently."
"Oh!" murmured the Winnebagos, quite impressed.
The big grandfather clock on the stairs chimed eleven and the Twins jumped up hastily. "We've got to go this minute!" exclaimed Agony. "Grandmother is not at home this morning and I left a kettleful of peas boiling on the stove. They're probably burned to cinders by this time!"
Evidently the fate of the peas did not weigh very heavily on Agony's conscience, for she made her adieux leisurely, and paused frequently to look about her admiringly.
This was the first time she had ever been inside of the historical old Carver House, although she had seen it many times from the outside. Uncle Jasper Carver had not been a man of sociable habits, and but few of the townspeople ever came to see him. Agony and Oh-Pshaw had only lived in Oakwood for the past four years, having been born in Philadelphia and spending their early school days there. At the death of their mother, four years before, they had come to live with their grandmother in Oakwood.
The Carver house, viewed from the outside, had been a source of much curiosity and speculation when the twins, in their rambles about Oakwood in the long warm summer evenings, would walk past and stop to admire the stately old mansion set in its old-fashioned garden, and many were the schemes they talked over for gaining admittance and seeing it on the inside.
And now, out of a clear sky, their beloved friends, the Winnebagos, were in full possession of the house of their dreams, and here they were, free to enter as often as they chose! Dreams certainly had a delightful way of coming true, if you only waited long enough!
IN THE MOONLIGHT
The Wing home was an old-fashioned mansion also, and though not nearly so old or so interesting as Carver House, being very modernly furnished, it still had that unmistakable atmosphere of a house that has sheltered one of the "first families" of a town for three generations. It was also of brick, and covered almost entirely by a creeping vine; its wide verandas were embowered in clematis and honeysuckle, its smooth, velvety lawn was shaded by giant elms.
Agony's grandmother was a sprightly, up-to-date old lady, as witty and wide awake as her son, and she fairly amazed the girls by her knowledge of men and affairs and by her shrewd comments on present day happenings. And she was just as much interested in the affairs of the Winnebagos as she was in the affairs of state which interested Mr. Wing, laughed heartily at the tales of their adventures and pranks and declared to Nyoda that she envied her from the bottom of her heart because she was their Guardian.
Mr. Wing too took a lively interest in the girls and drew them out in conversation, listening respectfully to their remarks and often nodding approval of their ideas.
Mr. Prince, the artist, was there too; he and Mr. Wing were like old friends already. He had come to Oakwood to make a series of sketches of the hills and the river for a certain outdoor-life magazine; he had taken quarters in the drowsy hotel, where he found life very dull, and he was very happy to have met Mr. Wing and the Winnebagos. He hoped they would let him accompany them on some of their hikes through the woods. The Winnebagos were charmed and agreed they had never met such a delightful man. They couldn't agree as to whether he was young or old and finally came to the decision that he was middle-aged, for to eighteen anything above thirty is middle-aged. Eugene Prince was thirty-five.
As the dinner progressed Nyoda noticed that Mr. Wing often looked long and keenly at Veronica, and she wondered just what was in his mind. Veronica's looks, her accent and her expressions set her conspicuously apart from the other girls. She also noticed that Mr. Prince was watching Veronica closely. Mr. Wing's curiosity concerning her was plainly written on his face, and finally he asked, "You are not an American, are you?"
"Indeed I am!" replied Veronica emphatically.
Mr. Wing looked surprised. "But you were not born in America?" he amended.
"No," replied Veronica with a sigh. "I was born in Hungary. But," she added brightly, "I'm here now, and that's enough. My uncle is an American citizen, and I'm going to be one when the war is over, but I'm an American girl already. I won't be more of one when I'm a real citizen than I am now."
Mr. Wing smiled at her ardor and remarked, "I wish everybody who came to these shores from other countries was as anxious to be a real American as you are."
Sahwah happened to be looking at Mr. Prince while Veronica was speaking and it seemed to her that he smiled very skeptically at her words. "He doesn't believe her!" said Sahwah hotly to herself and filled up with angry resentment at him as he continued to watch Veronica narrowly.
The conversation passed on to other subjects and Nyoda breathed an inward sigh of relief. It always made her uneasy when people began to wonder about Veronica.
Agony was talking animatedly about the coming drill contest and Mr. Wing was listening with smiling approval. "Good for you!" he exclaimed to the Winnebagos. "So the honor of Oakwood is to be vindicated at last! Camp Fire Girls to the rescue! Hurrah! I tell you, girls," he said enthusiastically, "if you can put it over and beat Hillsdale I'll give you each——" Here he paused and cast about in his mind for a suitable reward for such a distinguished service—"I'll give you each—no, I'll take you all on a trip to Washington, and personally conduct you into all the places where you never could get in by yourselves!"
"Oh!" shrieked Agony and Oh-Pshaw simultaneously, and "Oh!" echoed the Winnebagos in rapture.
"Sing a cheer to Mr. Wing!" cried Sahwah, and the others complied with a vigor that made the dishes ring:
"You're the B-E-S-T, best, Of all the R-E-S-T, rest, Oh, I love you, I love you all the T-I-M-E, time! If you'll be M-I-N-E, mine, I'll be T-H-I-N-E, thine, Oh, I love you, I love you all the T-I-M-E, time!"
Mr. Wing bowed in acknowledgment of the cheer and his smile showed how much it had pleased him.
"Great time you'll have drilling, with those heels of yours," he said teasingly. "I wish I could be there to see."